#29: The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton

Begun: 4/11/2011
Finished: 4/19/2011
Format: Hardcover (library)
Rating: 4/5

I’m normally not much of a genre reader, i.e. mystery/romance/sci-fi.  I like nonfiction or lit/contemp fiction for the most part.  But if a genre novel comes highly recommended and seems a bit outside-the-box of the usual potboiler format, I’ll gladly give it a go.  This one came recommended as just that, and I’m glad I read it, because it was quite good.

A young boy is traumatized by a Mysterious Event which leaves him mute, and he discovers a near-supernatural talent for picking locks.  A chance misdeed involving a football-rivalry prank leads him through a series of unfortunate but inexorable non-choices to a life as a criminal safecracker, beholden to a mysterious mastermind.  The story is told somewhat confusingly in two sets of nested flashbacks from the present day, where Michael is serving a ten-year prison sentence.  He is flashing back to the events that landed him in prison at age eighteen, and to the events of one year previous that led to his involvement in criminal activities in the first place.  Needless to say there’s a girl, and eventually the circumstances of his Mysterious Event are revealed (and they don’t disappoint, as so many MEs often do, in that they are definitely horrific and also lead believably both to his muteness and his safecracking ability).

Michael is an appealing narrator, acknowledge his culpability in having become embroiled in this life while at the same time showing us that it would have been damn near impossible to make different choices.  His ladylove is more a cardboard cutout, disappointingly.  The more interesting characters, namely a gang of high-end thieves he lands in with in California (and who sort of remind me of the cast of the TV show “Leverage”) don’t get as much screen time or development as I would have liked, and the climax of that storyline is somewhat…well, anticlimactic.  I felt vaguely as if some aspects of the arcs were left unresolved, but all the same it was a good read, tolerably well written (by which  mean I didn’t notice the writing and was never jerked out of the story by it).

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